NASA tweeted today that
“the hole in the ozone layer reached its annual maximum sizein September. This year’s hole was particularly small, the result of unusual weather patterns over Antarctica
Abnormal weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica dramatically limited ozone depletion in September and October, resulting in the smallest ozone hole observed since 1982, NASA and NOAA scientists reported today.
The annual ozone hole reached its peak extent of 6.3 million square miles (16. 4 million square kilometers) on Sept. 8, and then shrank to less than 3.9 million square miles (10 million square kilometers) for the remainder of September and October, according to NASA and NOAA satellite measurements. During years with normal weather conditions, the ozone hole typically grows to a maximum area of about 8 million square miles in late September or early October.
“It’s great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.”
Ozone is a highly reactive molecule comprised of three oxygen atoms that occurs naturally in small amounts. Roughly seven to 25 miles above Earth’s surface, in a layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere, the ozone layer is a sunscreen, shielding the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.
The Antarctic ozone hole forms during the Southern Hemisphere’s late winter as the returning Sun’s rays start ozone-depleting reactions. These reactions involve chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine derived from man-made compounds. The chemistry that leads to their formation involves chemical reactions that occur on the surfaces of cloud particles that form in cold stratospheric layers, leading ultimately to runaway reactions that destroy ozone molecules. In warmer temperatures fewer polar stratospheric clouds form and they don’t persist as long, limiting the ozone-depletion process.
NASA and NOAA monitor the ozone hole via complementary instrumental methods.
Satellites, including NASA’s Aura satellite, the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite and NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System NOAA-20 satellite, measure ozone from space. The Aura satellite’s Microwave Limb Sounder also estimates levels of ozone-destroying chlorine in the stratosphere.
At the South Pole, NOAA staff launch weather balloons carrying ozone-measuring “sondes” which directly sample ozone levels vertically through the atmosphere. Most years, at least some levels of the stratosphere, the region of the upper atmosphere where the largest amounts of ozone are normally found, are found to be completely devoid of ozone.
“This year, ozonesonde measurements at the South Pole did not show any portions of the atmosphere where ozone was completely depleted,” said atmospheric scientist Bryan Johnson at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
This article was written by the staff of TheConservativeOpinion.com